Telehealth Platforms: 5 Pillars of Patient-Centric Design

Telehealth Platforms: 5 Pillars of Patient-Centric Design
Telehealth Platforms: 5 Pillars of Patient-Centric Design
Ed Adamson, Director of Strategy & Insight at Star

To accelerate the adoption of telehealth services and remote health platforms, the patient-centric design is a must. By paying attention to five key areas, you can develop a telehealth solution that works for the most important users: the patients.

There are several universal challenges in delivering telehealth solutions, including a lack of patient adoption. It’s a reasonable reluctance: 

– Healthcare has always been delivered in-person.

– Trusting sensitive information to devices (and the unknown people behind them) can be uncomfortable.

– Apps and device interfaces can be confusing to navigate.

If we apply the principles of user-centric design to the telehealth design process, many of these hurdles evaporate. In this article, we’ll consider how we can design telehealth solutions to better meet patients’ primary needs: trust, relevance, accessibility, and ease of use. 

Understand your most important user: the patient

Patient-centric design starts with one thing: understanding the patients. In telehealth platform design, this covers most of the population, from teenagers to seniors. It involves very different levels of technological proficiency, dexterity, and physical ability.

So, the first step is to thoroughly research your audience. Without deeply understanding patients’ requirements, reasons for using a service, possible limitations, potential motivations, and other circumstances, it’s almost impossible to design remote health solutions.

5 Pillars of Patient-Centric Design

In asking people to use telehealth services, we’re asking them to transition from a familiar system to one that they may perceive as untried. The good news is that each of the problems mentioned above can be addressed by using good telehealth design principles.

1. Trust and security

It’s no wonder people are concerned about the safety of their medical information; data breaches are common these days, and no one wants their health history in the wrong hands.

As mentioned before, people are also generally less comfortable sharing information with a device. We’re hardwired to connect with people; while younger digital natives may not see this as an issue, it certainly affects older populations. 

So, how can good design mitigate these problems? It starts with transparency – being clear about: 

What information is collected?

– Who will see it? 

– Why it’s needed.

– How it’s transmitted.

– How it will be used.

– How it will be stored.

– What security measures are used to protect them.

– If tracking is used, explain what is being monitored and for how long.

Another way to build trust is to emphasize the human element. Let patients know that their doctor will be reviewing their results, a board-certified specialist will talk to them, etc. Remind them that technology is just a tool that’s connecting them to a real person.

2. Familiarity and Relevance

There’s a reason that many websites and apps put search boxes, menus, and other features in approximately the same place:  that’s where users expect to find them. Getting creative with the placement of various features might be tempting, but it’s just complicating the patient’s experience. Keeping a thread of familiarity throughout a new interface can reduce the stress of learning a new telehealth device.

It’s also important to keep in mind where the person will be on their journey when they use a remote health solution. Making them enter unnecessary information, adding too many steps to the signup/login process, or targeting something that doesn’t apply to their needs will add frustration. It’s best to address each stage separately. 

3. Accessibility 

Not all patients speak the same language or have the same mobility. Not everyone has good vision or hearing. Good telehealth design makes it easy for everyone to access medical services. This could mean:

– Translating verbal content into other languages, including ASL, or

– Offering remote translation services.

– Adding voice activation and screen reading services for those with low vision.

– Captioning spoken text.

– Using larger icons and text.

– Adjusting font sizes (or allowing the user to do so).

– Keeping the text simple and clear.

– Avoiding long texts and other unnecessary elements.

4. User experience

Most people don’t want to put a lot of effort into learning to use a new device. Sure, there’s a bit of a learning curve, but if you keep it simple, they will come.  There are two ways to do this: user research and user-centric design.

5. User Research

 Research is essential. Without talking to real users – patients – you’ll have no idea of the obstacles they face. Of course, it’s good to try to imagine yourself in their shoes, but it’s not the same as a first-person experience.

Research should carry on throughout the development cycle. If possible, observe how patients interact with your design – this will provide valuable insight into their real needs.

Follow user-centric design principles

Telehealth designers do well to take a page from the user-centric design playbook. UsabilityGeek sets out these essential elements of user-centered design:

Visibility – Users can easily understand the purpose of the product and how they use it.

Accessibility – It’s easy to use the product/device. And it’s easy to find information if needed.

Legibility – Content is easy to read.

Language – Information is easy to understand.

In short, make using a telehealth solution as easy as possible and take into consideration patients’ technical and physical limitations. Good telehealth design follows the same principles as user-centric design: focus on the user, keep it simple, and do your research. At Star, we’ve collaborated on many health and wellness projects including user experience design. 


About Ed Adamson

Ed Adamson is a Director of Strategy & Insight at Star, a global consultancy that connects insights, strategy, design, engineering, and marketing services into a seamless workflow. Adamson has 19 years of experience of brand-led innovation for some of the world’s greatest CPG brands from companies including P&G, Kimberly-Clark, Coty, GSK, Bayer, Danone, Mondelez and McCormick Foods.


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